FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT) — A group of Tennessee Valley cyclists rode Saturday morning in memory of a bike rider killed in Dekalb County two years ago.
Her family in Massachusetts held a memorial bike ride each of the past two Mother’s Days since Genco’s death June 6, 2011, and James Dawson of Huntsville decided there should be memorial rides here and to will also have a ceremony at the site of the accident.
“We are erecting a cross, a white cross and we’ll just remember her that way. We want that to be a visible reminder to people, to be careful when you see cyclists,” Dawson said.
He is part of the Alabama Wheelmen, a cycling club based in Huntsville. Last year, about a dozen riders took part in the ride for Christina Genco, and Dawson said there were more than 20 participants in the 2013 memorial ride.
Most were from the Tennessee Valley, but Sarah Royal flew in from Oregon and Jeremy Story came from Georgia to take part in a 38 mile ride. There was also an 80 mile route.
Genco made her first cross-country trip with Bike and Build in 2009, as did Royal.
“Our first build day was in Andover, Massachusetts, and we go with Habitat for Humanity, and have three different sites so we all sort of got randomly scrambled,” Royal said.
“We didn’t know each other well at all and I happened to be matched up with Christina, sitting on a sort of trestle type of thing on the side of the house working on vinyl siding and we sat there for the full eight hours, just gabbing about life.
“[Christina's] just so full of personality and I remember thinking to myself I really hope I have this kind of interaction and connection with the 30 other people on my trip. She was just special right from the start, the whole day we were a great match, telling jokes, making lame jokes, making dirty jokes, having a great time, telling stories,” she said.
“And absolutely screwing up all of the math when we were measuring the vinyl siding. We would calculate something. Say yep, that’s definitely three-quarters off the left side and the girl below us who was helping cut the vinyl would cut it exactly to our specifications and it was absolutely wrong. We probably weren’t the most efficient Habitat [for Humanity] workers that day but, immediately we clicked,” Royal said about Genco.
Although Royal only did Bike and Build once, Genco went on a second in 2011. She was a team leader, along with Jeremy Story. They were riding together on Highway 35 from Fort Payne to Rainsville. He was about 200 yards ahead of her as they pedaled uphill.
“I heard the impact and it didn’t really strike me as to what it was initially because that’s just not really a sound you have or are familiar with,” Story said, two years later.
“You heard the impact and it was just kind of like somebody had hit another car or something and then, in about 15 seconds, I just sort of realized what had happened and I turned around and rode my bike as fast down the hill as I could,” he said.
He was devastated.
“It was kind of like my world just sort of falling apart. She had been such an integral part of Bike and Build, and my Bike and Build experience up to that point, and all of a sudden now she’s gone. Everything was sort of off-kilter, and I just really felt stunned,” Story said.
He had to decide if he would continue. Through overwhelming sadness, he did.
“I really couldn’t think of anything else to do. I knew that that would be what Christina would want me to do. I knew if I went home I would just sit there and not do anything. I had committed to it and decided I had to keep going,” he said.
Story returned Saturday to the site of the deadly wreck, to help plant the cross memorial.
“I’m really excited to just sort of continue to honor Christina,” Story said.
“It’s really important to me to keep her memory going and keep her legacy going. It’s fundraisers like that, like this, that allow that to happen, so I think it’s great,” he said.
All participants in the memorial ride made a donation to the Boston-based Christina Clarke Genco Foundation, which supports her passions: bicycle awareness programs, Habitat for Humanity, and some scholarships for students.
Huntsville cyclist Gregg Stone built the cross, and his wife Jacqy said at the ceremony that even though she never met Genco, she felt a connection and hopes for no more deaths.
“My hopes for cycling in Alabama are that we can share the road, because I truly believe that we can respect one another and all get to where we’re going, whether it be the store, or work, or a healthy workout,” Jacqy Stone said.
Dawson issued a caution to drivers who might pass them Saturday: “Just be aware that cyclists are out there not only today, but on any given day there might be cyclists on the road. We’re just trying to build awareness and we are trying to commemorate Christina.”